I have had the honor to teach defensive and offensive tactics to thousands of officers throughout the U.S. I’ve also trained the special police forces in Maceio, Brazil. One of the very first questions I ask is, “Can someone please show me how you were taught to defend a close-quarters knife attack?”

Usually, the participants look at the floor because they (1) don’t remember what they were taught or (2) don’t believe in the tactics they were taught. Either way, we’ve got a major problem.

Of course, there’s always the tough guy who mutters, “I’ll just shoot’em!” That’s when I grab my rubber knife ,walk over to that guy and simulate stabbing him repeatedly.   Then, predictably, he says something like, “I wasn’t ready!” Exactly.

Eventually, I get someone to demonstrate a technique for me. The knife defense techniques I see are all similar and equally disturbing. The “butterfly” (blocking by crossing your wrists) and the “V” (creating a V with your thumbs and forefingers) techniques are the most common. If you are a law enforcement officer, I’m certain you were taught one or both of these awesome moves. (Sarcasm.)

The fact of the matter is that these B.S. techniques have been taught for generations. They didn’t work in the 60’s, they don’t work today and they will fail our officers in the future. These “tactics” are similar to many of the other combat techniques taught to and by law-enforcement today in that they only work against a highly cooperative opponent (e.g. your YouTube or Academy training partner).

BS1 copy

Let’s examine the above picture.  A motivated attacker would likely slice downward causing serious physical injury to the person “blocking” the attack.  But, the “rising block” works perfectly in the classroom.

In order for someone to successfully pull off the “Rising Block,”  “V” or “Butterfly” technique, their attacker must do what 99% of edged weapon attackers do on YouTube: attack once, attack predictably and freeze in suspended animation so the instructor can kick their ass and show how cool the move is. (Check out “knife defense” on YouTube then come back and tell me I’m wrong.)

This might sound funny, but it’s dead serious. We are setting our officers up for failure.

My partners and I put techniques in “The Lab” before we teach them. The Lab is a brutal environment where we test techniques against as much violence as we can bring. If they fail against a motivated attack, we don’t teach them. It’s that simple. The “Butterfly” and “V” fail EVERY TIME. Don’t believe me? Grab a rubber knife and attack someone like you mean it. Stab and slash repeatedly and violently while continually closing the distance. See how many times those techniques work. The results should be pretty close to “zero percent success rate.”

I know what you’re thinking. “So, hotshot, what’s the magic technique you’re selling?”

I’m not selling anything. I’m giving this one to you because it could save your life and the lives of your fellow officers. It could even save your life if you are unarmed. It could save your wife’s life. It could save your daughter’s life. My mother can do this technique and she just turned 70 years young.

Before I describe the technique, I want to make something clear. As a police officer, I have fought for my life. I have had people try to kill me. I have had to kill to save my life and the lives of others. My experience comes from, well…experience, rather than textbooks, YouTube videos, Steven Seagal movies and tactical officers conferences. I’ve trained in combat arts for more than 35 years, attained four black belts and was a SWAT officer for 16 of my 20 years in police work.

That said, there is no shame in running! If someone pulls a knife on you and you have the ability to create considerable distance, by running, you give yourself a fighting chance to draw your handgun. But sometimes, running is not an option.

If you can’t run and someone draws a knife on you, you must immediately protect your vital organs. Erase the Butterfly and the “V” from your mental hard drive. Try that crap and you will likely sustain serious physical injuries or death.

How do you protect your vitals, instantly? This is counter intuitive guys…some of you are going to shake your heads in disbelief, but I urge you to try this against a willing, violent training partner.

Drop to the ground! Step back with your reaction-side leg and drop your weight onto your reaction side hip and forearm. Immediately lift your gun side knee toward your chest (about 45 degrees). Put the elbow of your gun side arm against the outside of your knee to protect your vitals with your hand, forearm, knee, shin and foot.

Kick violently to keep the attacker away.

Key point: Don’t hang out in this position! The goal is to get your handgun out of your holster and rip the trigger until the threat is neutralized.

(Here’s a picture of a female officer demonstrating the position.)

ThePosition Stef

Most of you will have to draw while your gun side leg is completely straight. Some of you will have to adjust your kit, especially if you wear an outer vest carrier, to avoid obstructions that prevent you from drawing quickly from that position.

You will suffer wounds to your leg. You will get that gun out. You will end that threat with lethal force.

Practicing with Simunitions rounds, I shot my toe once. I decided to draw, put both feet flat on the ground, lay flat and shoot from an isosceles position. Sure, the attacker will likely close the distance. That’s when you use your legs to kick again. By then he should have at least a few rounds in him. Redirect his weight and energy and continue to fire as necessary.

I’m telling you, guys and gals, I’ve tried everything else. For those of you who think you can run backwards faster than a 5 year old can run forward, you’re probably wrong. If you think you’re going to get your gun out if someone surprises you with a knife attack, get that out of your head as well. If you think you’re going to pull a fancy Kung Fu move and block and disarm a person with a knife…you should move to Hollywood.

This technique will buy you the time necessary to get your gun out.   Once that happens, the tables change significantly.

Try this. Teach this. You can continue to teach B.S. if you want, but at least throw this technique in as an option. I’ve never had a “B.S. Flag” thrown after demonstrating this technique. It works. Simply.

Be safe, train hard and God bless all of you.

Very Respectfully,


Sgt. Kendrick D. Stephens (ret.), Co-Founder

Tactical Combat International


“Keep it real.”